Tags: Western and Central Africa
Despite a devastating decade-long civil war (1991–2001), Sierra Leone made significant progress towards achieving the MDGs. However, in 2014–2015 the country was hit hard by the Ebola crisis as well as a coincidental collapse in international iron ore prices — a key source of fiscal revenues and foreign exchange — presenting a considerable challenge for the country’s Vision 2035 of becoming a middle-income country. Today the SDGs are being implemented against a backdrop of multiple recovery strategies, including the third Poverty Reduction Strategy (Agenda for Prosperity 2013–2018) and the National Ebola Recovery Strategy/Presidential Recovery Priorities (2015–2017). Both strategies are informed by the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States.
Progress is being made on implementing the SDGs, despite the circumstances of recent years, due to strong leadership from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MOFED) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. In an impressive move, Sierra Leone’s 2016 national budget already reflects all 17 SDGs aligned with the eight pillars of the Agenda for Prosperity.
The government also launched a popular version of the SDGs in the parliament during the national Budget Speech and distributed it to a cross-section of other stakeholders, including civil servants, NGOs and CSOs. With financial support from the New Deal facility,9MOFED provided a briefing to the Cabinet and held several radio talk shows to explain the SDGs to the general public.
Adapting the SDGs to the national context
The Government of Sierra Leone, in collaboration with the UNCT, held a technical retreat in December 2015 to review the SDGs against the landscape of existing strategies and plans, including the Agenda for Prosperity, and to draft an SDG Adaptation Report to be presented at the HLPF in 2016. This retreat included, among others, line ministries, departments and agencies, CSOs and UN agencies.
Raising public awareness
Public awareness-raising efforts also saw early progress in Sierra Leone. To lay the foundation, the UNCT prepared a novel SDG communications strategy which domesticated and simplified the messages of the SDGs. With the communications strategy in hand, the UNCT held two SDG photo and banner exhibitions in the capital city as well as a nationwide campaign at the Universities of Kenema, Bo, Makeni and Njala by engaging with mayors, university teachers and students. In addition, the government also held a national conference, with support from the UNCT, at the University of Makeni in March 2016, to discuss the ways to transition from the MDGs to the SDGs and the challenges facing the country in the SDG era.
Another innovative move was the UN Communications Group’s special training to familiarize journalists with the SDGs and facilitate objective reporting of progress and challenges to implementation in light of the Ebola crisis.
Due to these efforts, key stakeholders are well aware of the SDGs. In particular, SDG 16 on governance gained wide recognition as a critical goal for Sierra Leone as a post-conflict country and a founding member of the g7+, a voluntary association of countries that are or have been affected by conflict and are now in transition to the next stage of development.
Assessing risks and fostering adaptability
Lessons learned from the Ebola crisis and the collapse in international iron ore prices informed the development of the National Ebola Recovery Strategy/Presidential Recovery Priorities (2015–2017).
The objective is to ensure that the country maintains zero cases of Ebola while ‘building back better’ national systems for resilience and national development, including preparedness to face future shocks and epidemics. The national strategy comprises seven presidential priority sectors: health, education, social protection, private sector development, water, energy and governance. Implementation of the first phase ended in March 2016, and the second phase started in April 2016. Discussions are under way for the presidential priorities to integrate the SDGs.